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Some thoughts on comics from the week of 10/30/2013

Damian, Son of Batman #1

damiansonofbatman001I’ve said in the past that those 5-page “previews” or really ANY “preview” repeated over and over and over throughout comics I *am* reading will typically NOT get me any closer to buying the comic they’re “advertising.” What I’m noticing that WILL get me, though, is a cover. See the cover to the Shazam vol. 1 enough times, I decided I was interested enough to buy it. Ditto the “main” image for this issue. Now, the issue itself…I wasn’t impressed. The art’s good, I like Damian’s costume in particular. But the story just isn’t doing it for me, at least not as a single chapter of four. And it’s been so long since I even read Batman #666 (which itself is about 76 issues old as of this typing) that there’s no real significance to me other than “hey, here’s a Damian who didn’t die.” Given all that, I don’t think I’m gonna spend $4/issue on the remaining 3 in this series…but I’ll likely keep an ear to the ground and if I hear enough positive ‘buzz’ about it, perhaps pick up a paperback of the full story once that comes out, if reasonably priced.

The Sandman: Overture #1

sandmanoverture001I was really looking forward to this in the few days leading up to its release. Then I was immediately disappointed by the covers. I couldn’t figure out which cover was the “main” cover, and of the two that I saw, neither particularly rang any bells with the (limited) “marketing” I’d seen for the series; neither stood out as “the” “main” cover. While this oughtta be a relatively minor thing, it largely soured me on initial feelings, which is not a good thing…especially as I don’t recall other Sandman comics doing the “variant thing” and The Sandman really doesn’t strike me as something that oughtta have variants…so this suddenly fell out of fitting perfectly with the “classic” stuff and into “just another modern comic.” I typically have not been a fan of this artist, not caring for the layouts and looser style and all that. However…the style works extremely well for this issue, for The Sandman. Though I don’t recall this artist working on the original series, his work fits in quite well on the whole with my recollection of the original series. Story-wise, again, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve actually read anything Sandman…so taken solely as a stand-alone thing, this issue doesn’t really impress me on the whole. Still, I recognize something in it that (thankfully) rings “true” to memory, expectation, and all that. I have the feeling I’ll enjoy this much more taken as a whole someday, when this entire arc is collected into a single volume.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #27

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw027There’s a certain “meta” thing about this series for me, between the single issues and the collected volumes. Aside from wherever it was I got the impression of City Fall being a 7-parter (online article, perhaps…not sure if it was anything “official” in-print), I find I “see” story arcs by how they’re collected, which thus far has been some “strict” 4-issue cycle, each collected volume being exactly 4 issues without any variance…even for a specific EXTENDED SINGLE ARC like this being split up. This seems to be the penultimate chapter of City Fall, as things come to a head–and we’re set up for Big Stuff next issue. Story-wise, we get some forward momentum, though it does feel a bit like this issue’s kinda “treading water,” with some of the key stuff going on in the Villains Micro-Series rather than here. Often I’ve enjoyed the added stuff in the Micro-Series, “enhancing” the “main story,” but (for example) the introduction of Bebop and Rocksteady would have had more impact, I think, if they’d been mutated in this main book, or had they been introduced here and THEN we got filled in on the backend about their actual mutation and “trial run.) Visually I continue to enjoy Santolouco‘s work almost as much as I’m enjoying Brizuela‘s on the New Animated Adventures title. All in all, not a bad issue, but not particularly impressive in and of itself…though I’m quite looking forward to the final chapter of this arc.

TMNT Villains Micro-Series #7: Bebop & Rocksteady

tmntvillainsmicroseries007bebopandrocksteadyI’ve never been a particular fan of Bebop and Rocksteady. I see them as a key element of censorship in the 1980s, where heaven forbid the turtles should “win” “beating up” a human. The fact that they were never REALLY much threat to the turtles was also a drawback. But the cover to this issue–which I think I first saw in the “next issue” page of the previous Micro-Series issue–went a long way to change my mind on these guys…making them actually look big…and dangerous. We’ve seen the thugs that mutate, before–a couple cameos, and a cliffhanger of them being part of the group told to fight down to the last two for the chance to become “something more.” This issue gives us a bit of a “flashback” of Bebop and Rocksteady and their “gang history” before joining up with the Foot group, their actual mutation, and their “test run” in mutated form. While still the dimwitted, bumbling idiots they were in the classic cartoon, they’re treated much more seriously here, and come off as the dangerous, mutated brutes they should be…a genuine threat to the turtles despite not being the brightest. I liked the art here, and much as I like Santolouca‘s art on the main series, I far prefer Bebop and Rocksteady’s look here than their appearance in City Fall. An endearing touch in this issue is acknowledging the characters’ names/nicknames as musical styles: I still remember the sudden “click” in my mind early in college when I made that particular connection. Definitely a good issue if you want a Bebop & Rocksteady story, as well as a key issue in the overall TMNT continuity from IDW. As with other Micro-Series issues, you can ignore that number on the cover…treat this as a one-shot with timely, in-continuity elements.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #26 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw026City Fall, part five

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco, Charles Paul Wilson III
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Leters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

Mikey reconnects with his pizza pal; Donatello and April seek assistance from an old, reluctant ally; Leonardo finds himself lonely within the Foot family; Raphael solidifies an alliance with Angel and visits Casey, and Splinter fulfills his end of a deal with Old Hob.

All in all, there’s a lot going on in this issue, as we see snippets of what’s going on for a number of different parties. I’m actually reminded tonight of some of Laird‘s issues from the mid-2000s Mirage Volume 4 series, where everyone was off on their own, so any given issue might not have much for a specific character/story but would touch base briefly on a number of characters and things going on. While I would certainly like to see “more,” as a single-issue of a monthly title in the midst of its largest arc yet, this is about as good as it gets. I grouse about other publishers double-shipping titles, and yet I would–on the level of quality the TMNT books have been carrying–gladly follow a weekly series even with the $3.99 cover price.

The art is consistent and overall quite good. There are times I’m a bit distracted at the turtles’ faces, but that’s just the shaping in this depiction…it’s a bit different and slightly cartooney, yet not bad, and other than momentary distraction I really do like this visual take on the characters. The humans–and I’m struck especially by April–look great in this issue, and I’m glad this mega-arc at least is maintaining the consistent visuals (with art variances coming with the Villains Micro-Series that ties in to “current events”).

This is part 5 of City Fall, so in and of itself isn’t the best jumping-on point: the issue’s action all comes from events previously established both throughout the first four chapters of the story and the IDW TMNT continuity as a whole. However, I do believe IDW‘s keeping to the 4-issue TPBs, so this should be the first single issue after the newest TPB volume, and in that regard this would be a handy jumping on point.

Despite being only one of about 10 issues I bought this week, this was top of the stack–ahead, even, of the one DC Villains Month issue I’ve most anticipated (Batman/Superman 3.1: Doomsday #1)–and despite my intent to save the issue to read later, found myself taking an extended lunch break (the bulk of the break having been spent going to the shop to purchase all these comics) to read this issue.

TMNT is consistently one of the most anticipated issues of the month for me, and seems to always leave me having enjoyed the given issue while anxiously looking forward to getting the next issue…something that is an unfortunate rarity in this day and age.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #25 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw025City Fall, part four

Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Art: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee & Tom Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Mateus Santolouco
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

City Fall is shaping up to be one of THE epic TMNT stories, certainly a worthy rival to the classic City at War story that ran in the original TMNT series back in 1992/1993. This issue marks the halfway point of the story, and I’m extremely interested in what comes next!

Raphael–distraught over his role in Casey getting hurt and Leonardo’s being taken by the Foot–is out busting heads, hoping to find the Foot so he can atone for his mistake by rescuing Leo himself. Donatello talks to Casey on the phone, updating him on what’s going on…Raph’s out, and Splinter’s disappeared with Slash on some personal mission. Don and Mikey are heading out to search for Raph. April and Casey have a moment as we see their relationship continuing to bloom. Splinter meets with Old Hob to enlist aid in rescuing his son. Meanwhile, we see Leo as Shredder’s #2, his “Chunin,” and Karai isn’t impressed.

I recall several panels jumping out at me as the turtles looking kinda strange, which momentarily took me out of the story. However, on giving myself an extra moment to take stuff in, they actually fit with the rest…there were just details I’d not really noticed that I suddenly did (particularly the raggedness of the turtles’ masks, which makes sense and I like…it’s not like they’re going to some shop and buying perfectly manufactured masks or anything!). Overall I’m continuing to really enjoy Santolouco’s art, and very much appreciating the general consistency to the look of this title for this arc at least.

Story-wise, I continue to be fascinated by the possibilities of character growth, development, and change. As this is a relatively new continuity unbeholden to older material (but drawing organically from everything that’s come before and reworking it to fit together), I can see so much potential to things, which pleasantly derails any concrete expectations I might have. At the very least I anticipate this arc having drastic long-reaching impact on Leonardo moving forward as well as tricky consequences for Splinter, and likely long-term stuff for Casey.

It also appears that we’re about to have the introduction of a couple ‘classic’ very popular characters from the original TMNT cartoon brought fully into this continuity, and while I can mostly do without the idea of them, I have faith that they’ll be worked into this continuity quite well and be as different as Cobra Commander in the GI Joe comics was to the cartoon counterpart of that series…or at least, I really hope that’s the case!.

If you’ve read through to the prior issue, I see nothing in particular to this issue to give reason not to pick it up. 

I believe I saw solicitation text somewhere showing that IDW is continuing to collect every 4 issues into new paperbacks, so a new volume with the interlude between the Krang War and City Fall, as well as the first 3 chapters of City Fall itself should be available soon…which would make this a decent jumping-on point if you’re following the series in trades and are looking for a point to jump into the single issues.

And while you’ll certainly benefit from a larger context having read much of the earlier material, if you’re just looking for a solid, major TMNT story…for being 4 chapters in of an expected 7, I highly recommend this!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) #22 [Review]

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw022City Fall, Part One
Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Mateus Santolouco
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

Once I originally discovered the original Mirage TMNT comics and could be officially considered “into” them, THE major TMNT story was City at War, beginning with the big #50 issue that saw the return of Eastman and Laird–the characters’ creators–simultaneously to the title. The arc continued for the next 12 issues; 13 chapters in all…easily the largest single arc in the characters’ history to that point.

Now, after five 4-issue arcs and several mini-series, we begin what’s being billed as the largest-yet arc for this current IDW run: City Fall. I’m almost certain the title is MEANT to recall City at War, just by its name…and reading this issue, I can see a sort of thematic connection already. I don’t recall–if I even ever “knew”–how long this arc’s intended to be, but for some reason I have “7” on the brain.

Raphael and Casey are out and about, checking on Casey’s dad…when they’re ambushed by the Foot. Raph escapes, but is unable to take Casey with him–he quickly returns to his brothers, anxious to get back out and rescue his friend. While a rescue mission is mounted, the turtles and Splinter are dismayed at the presence of Shredder himself…a situation that–coupled with Raph’s uncontrolled rage–leaves the entire turtle-family in a far less than ideal situation by issue’s end.

Visually, I enjoyed this issue more than I thought I would. I don’t recall having any real issue with Santolouco‘s art on the Secret History of the Foot Clan mini, and his style works well here. Coupled with the consistency of Pattison‘s colors, this fits in very well with established IDW TMNT visuals; and aside from one panel toward the end of the issue, I have no trouble following the story visually.

The story itself seems to be–based on the credits–a sort of “story by committee,” and if this were DC or Marvel I might be quite concerned to see the book’s editor in the story credits. But I’m already used to seeing both Eastman (co-creator of the characters!) and Waltz credited together…and with Curnow’s history with this property, it makes sense for involvement there as well.

I definitely find myself enjoying the use of continuity…it’s been frustrating in its own way having such short, clipped arcs of “only” 4 issues apiece (notable by the collected volumes popping out every few months). But we’re treated to stuff coming out of the various arcs, as opposed to some floating, “timeless” standalone arc that could happen at “any time.” Recurring characters and events/references come from the various Micro-Series issues and even last year’s phenomenal Annual.

From this issue alone, the story actually feels bigger…and we get a potentially major event in this issue to kick things off with pretty high stakes–I don’t know exactly what to expect going forward…but whatever happens, this issue will certainly be one ripe for lots of further reference as we continue on with this continuity.

The issue’s certainly a treat to me, having been following the entirety of the IDW TMNT continuity since it began a couple years ago…I could say this is my favorite issue of the week, but that’d be a bit misleading, as this is the ONLY new comic I bought this week: the TMNT are a core part of my comics buying, and visiting the comic shop for this single issue–where in the past I’ve skipped a week due to there only being 2 issues of anything out–was totally worthwhile. I’m definitely looking forward to the next issue!

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